Tradition forced me to marry my dead husbands brother, please hear me out!

Dear Uncle T:

I am a 38-year-old woman originally from Zimbabwe who resides in Pretoria, South Africa. I live in my deceased husband’s house that was left for me through a will which his family contested right after he passed on. I have 3 beautiful children, 2 boys and 1 young daughter. As I write to you, I keep asking myself question as to why did my husband die so early and leave me with such a great burden to carry, his family and their demands!

A year ago, my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour and was admitted to hospital where he died peacefully after signing a letter to be euthanized (assisted suicide) in order to spare his kids from trauma of seeing him die slowly and painfully. Before his body even went cold, I was- summoned by his family to come and have a word with his uncles who were never even there during his last days on earth. On my arrival there, which was on 16 September 2015, I found my husband’s older brother, my husband’s mother and a couple of fellas who were introduced to me as ‘’uncles’’ even though they didn’t look like them.

I couldn’t believe my ears when I was told to help them grow my husband’s legacy by marrying his older brother, and that I didn’t have a say in it since it’s tradition and it’s what he would’ve expected as a traditional man. Funny thing is, my husband and his brother never got along during his last days because he cursed him after we failed to give him booze money. Well okay, I thought maybe they were joking, I thought maybe they wanted me to flee back to Zimbabwe and leave the house to them, so I stayed and refused.

In about a week or so, I heard a knock on my door that really gave me a surprise. I opened the door and found my husband’s brother standing at the door with his luggage, a letter on his hand that he brought for me from court, and a smug on his face. I took the paper from his hands while he made himself comfortable on my bed and I came to a shocking discovery. The family were threatening to fight for custody of my kids if I do not agree to marry that old-hag!

I laughed and told them they wouldn’t even win, but he emotionally blackmailed me by saying I should look at what my kids wear, and how they are living currently before I say anything. Truly speaking Uncle T, ever since my husband died, life hasn’t been easy for us. I sometimes sleep on an empty stomach because the food is never enough, not to mention that their school uniform is torn everywhere. I have developed an alcohol addiction problem, and I am unemployed, so it’s easy for them to win a case over this issue.

From that time, I have been traditionally considered the ‘’lawful wife’’ of that pig. I cry every night knowing that I have to live with a person I do not love, I cry every night hearing my kids calling him ‘’Baba,’’ I cry every night knowing that I kissed and did the deed with that man, worst of all, I cry every night missing my husband. So I am appealing to you Uncle T for some advice, what should I do? Anonymous—Pretoria.


Hello Anonymous, I have to admit, your story really touched me to an extent that I shed a few tears before I thought of how I can advise you on such a situation without having to degrade any traditional law.

A strong woman never gives up on herself or her children no matter how difficult life gets, a strong woman picks herself up, looks at her kids, and immediately starts making a plan of action. In this situation, nobody has power over you, except you yourself. By that, I am referring to your new lifestyle of drinking heavily while your children suffer. It is surprising to know that you have money to get yourself addicted to alcohol, but you cannot spare that money to sew your children’s torn uniform. I want you to start fixing yourself before you can fix your household problems.

The reason why your in-laws have power over you, is because they know that alcohol has taken over the better version of you, it has destroyed your values and morals as a mother, and it has given people the impression that you are a negligent mother, which is not true. Legally, that house belongs to you and they know that there’s nothing they can do to stop you from chasing them out of the house. But because you have a loose end in your life, they have managed to push you in a corner and make you feel like you cannot escape, but if you look on your right, there’s a bright side that requires you to start fighting for your normal life back in order to win this fight.

My advice is to start attending AA meetings and trauma counselling in order to get back on track, I know it’s going to be a bumpy road for you, but think about your peace and your children’s future. To everyone out there who might be facing a similar situation, no human being or situation is worth losing your sleep and serenity over, just like locks, every problem has a key/solution for it… all you have to do is look and not sulk!


Picture credits: Africa Facts

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